SC bench recuses from hearing Vedanta case

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench on Wednesday recused itself from hearing the contentious issue of land acquisition for the proposed Rs 15,000-crore Vedanta University Project in the holy city of Puri.
Without citing any reasons, the bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik said the matter will be listed before some other bench.
Sources said the bench declined to hear the matter to avoid any conflict of interest as one of the judge, Justice Patnaik, hails from Orissa.
The bench was to hear appeals filed by the state government and the Anil Agarwal Foundation, the promoter of the project, against the Orissa High Court decision which held that land acquisition procedures for the proposed Vedanta University project were illegal.
The Orissa government and the Foundation, promoted by UK-based Vedanta group, had challenged the November 16 decision of the High Court which quashed its land acquisition notification citing 17 issues.
The High Court had also directed Vedanta to return the land awarded to them to their owners.
At least two PILs and six individual petitions were filed in the High Court since 2007 challenging the state government`s notification on the land acquisition procedures. The petitions said that Land Acquisition Company rules, 1963, had not been properly followed.
The proposed multi-disciplinary university project would have caused extreme debilitating impact on the eco system as well as the local bio-diversity, the petitioners had contended.
Congress leader Umaballav Rath had filed the first PIL in the HC challenging the varsity project, which was envisaged on 500 acres of temple land.
The petitioners had also questioned the status of the company saying that it was not properly formed as per the Company`s Act.
The High Court had cited 17 issues and held that land acquisition procedure for Vedanta were illegal.
Accordingly, the High Court quashed the land acquisition notifications and also the award proceedings in favour of the company and directed them to return the land to the original owners.
The petitioners had pointed out that the proposed university project site, which was to come up near Puri about 60 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, was close to Balukhand Konark Black Buck Sanctuary and a river.
They also objected to inclusion of a large chunk of land belonging to Lord Jagannath temple in the proposed site.
The Foundation entered into an MoU with Orissa government on July 19, 2006 to set up a university near Puri.

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